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Nittany Lions Look to Continue Home Success in NCAA Tournament

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By Jackson Thibodeau, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - An ecstatic cheer, and for some--tears, erupted out of a meeting room in the East Area Locker Room Building on Tuesday night as it was announced that the Penn State field hockey team had earned the fourth overall seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

8284674.jpeg"It is just so emotional for me," said head coach Charlene Morett as she wiped away a tear. "I am so unbelievably proud of the team and what they have accomplished."

The entire team gathered on Tuesday evening to view the selection show and following the results, received some inspirational words from associate athletic director and senior woman's administrator Charmelle Green.

"You brought the Big Ten championship home," Green said to the team. "But your work isn't finished yet. Now bring home that national championship."

A No. 3 national ranking along with a Big Ten regular season and tournament title earned the Nittany Lions the right to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament on their home turf.

"This is just what we wanted," said senior Hannah Allison. "Everything has sort of fallen in place for us this season and being able to host is one more thing that can help us get to that national championship."

The Nittany Lions will face Albany in the opening round of the tournament on Saturday morning, and with a victory, would then again host the next round against the winner of the Syracuse and Massachusetts matchup.

Penn State last hosted an NCAA Tournament game in 2010 against Syracuse, but prior to that had not hosted since 2002--a year in which the Nittany Lions were the national runner-up.

So just how important is it for the squad to play on their own turf?

"Going into last weekend (Big Ten Tournament weekend), we told ourselves that being successful wasn't only about winning the tournament, but about earning the right to host," said Big Ten Tournament MVP Kelsey Amy.

The Nittany Lions have been tremendously successful in Happy Valley this season, posting a 10-1 home record as they have outscored opponents 44-16 at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex.

"We have the best crowd to play in front of," said Amy. "Having our home crowd is going to be huge for us."

The team is entering the tournament hot, having finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak and earned two momentous victories in the conference tournament over Iowa and Michigan.

"We have so much momentum that there's no need for us to regroup our team," said Morett. "We just have to continue doing what we're doing--which is taking our game to another level and improving every time we step on that field."

As for the opponent, the Great Danes are heading into Happy Valley fresh off an America East Conference championship with regular season record of 13-7.

Albany has faced off against two Big Ten opponents this season, dropping games to both Michigan and Iowa. Penn State defeated the Wolverines and the Hawkeyes twice this season including conference tournament play.

Facing off against the Nittany Lions on Saturday will be Albany graduate student Jessica Longstreth, who played at Penn State for three seasons.

Longstreth transferred from Penn State following the 2010 campaign. As a Nittany Lion, she tallied 22 goals and 20 assists along with Big Ten first team and third team All-America honors.

As for how Penn State can find success against the Great Danes, Coach Morett and the team insist that they just need to continue to do what has propelled them to this point.

"We have done a great job in transition," said Morett. "If we can push that transition into the offensive attack, continue to play great defense and force some penalty corners we will be alright."

Game time against Albany is slated for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex.  Should the Nittany Lions advance, they would play either Syracuse or Massachusetts on Sunday at 2 p.m.

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